The last time Malcolm Butler was in the news, it was because he was busy sealing a Super Bowl win for the Patriots with an incredible interception. But past accomplishments don’t earn you any leeway in Bill Belichick’s world.
According to the Boston Herald, Butler was late to the first day of voluntary offseason team activities on May 26, due to a weather-related travel delay. Despite the fact that Butler informed the team that he would be delayed and is not, in fact, Thor—and therefore cannot control the weather—the Patriots decided to punish him. Which, fine, hold him out for a day to drive home the importance of arriving in time for “voluntary” workouts. But of course it’s not that simple, because this is Bill Belichick, whose controlling mania would make Cinderella’s stepmother blush.
For the crime of not scheduling his travel an extra day earlier in anticipation of delays, Butler hasn’t been allowed on the practice field for the past two weeks. Butler still “voluntarily” arrived at the Patriots facility every day to attend workouts and meetings, but he wasn’t allowed on the field to practice like the rest of his teammates. That seems like a very disproportionate punishment!
And because the Patriots cannot seem to go more than a few months without getting themselves ensnared in a rule-breaking scandal, Albert Breer reports that the NFLPA is investigating whether they violated Article 21, Section 5(a) of the CBA when punishing Butler. What is Article 21, Section 5(a), you ask?
Section 5. Miscellaneous:
(a) No Club official may indicate to a player that the Club’s offseason workout program or classroom instruction is not voluntary (or that a player’s failure to participate in a workout program or classroom instruction will result in the player’s failure to make the Club or result in any other adverse consequences affecting his working conditions). Contact work (e.g., “live” blocking, tackling, pass rushing, bump-andrun)is expressly prohibited in all offseason workouts. All Clubs, coaches and other Club 134officials shall follow all of the rules regarding offseason workouts set forth in AppendixG hereto.
It is hard to tell if the Butler and the NFLPA actually have a case here—since the OTAs are indeed “voluntary,” it could be argued that being held out of them isn’t actually an adverse consequence—but one thing is clear: Bill Belichick is not to be trifled with.